Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)


REVIEWER RATING: 
7/10


It was only a matter of time before we got a Puppet Master remake, so this film comes as no surprise at all to me. In fact, the biggest surprise is how good the movie actually is, especially compared to the terrible CG-infested modern sequels that Charles Band still churns out.

Helmed by Swedish directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (Wither) and written by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) the movie focuses on Thomas Lennon's character "Edgar," who returns to his childhood home after his brother's untimely death. One day while rummaging through his bro's things he discovers a creepy looking doll that turns out to be worth some decent change to collectors. He decides to take the doll to a small town convention where they're holding an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the infamous "Toulon Murders" (morbid much?), and where they'll also hold an auction for authentic dolls made by Andre Toulon (briefly played by Udo Kier).

Accompanied by some friends, Edgar sets out for the hotel where the auction (and murders) took place, but of course, unbeknownst to them and the other guests, bringing the dolls back home is exactly what the supposedly deceased Toulon wanted all along. It's not long before the dolls come to life and slaughter the unsuspecting hotel patrons in very bloody and brutal ways, thankfully most of which were done with practical effects.

As expected, we see the return of some Puppet Master favorites, like Blade, Tunneler, Pinhead and Torch, but with some minor cosmetic differences and variations since Toulon apparently made A LOT of puppets. So for instance there's more than one Blade puppet here, some with weapons for hands, others with hands but with a hidden knife, etc.. It's an interesting concept and keeps the movie from becoming too tedious by having people killed off by the same handful of puppets. There are also several new ones, like a frog named "Happy Amphibian" and some that fly around with helicopter propellers. Each puppet has its own semi-unique quirks and methods of murder, which is very satisfying. With so much death the filmmakers luckily don't skimp out on the gore, and as I mentioned earlier, fortunately kept things mostly practical.

Positive aside, I had some issues with the movie's somewhat uneven tone, where at times it seemed a bit fun and comedic, and other times where it took itself a little too seriously. This may be due in part by some of the stiff performances, specifically that of Thomas Lennon who appeared to phone in his performance and showed no real emotion whatsoever. I also didn't really care for the ending, where the filmmakers are clearly aiming for a sequel since the final moments leave a lot to be desired and many things unanswered.

OVERALL: 
The Puppet Master franchise has been in dire need of change for years now and this remake surprisingly delivered what us fans have been mostly longing for--the return of practical effects and gory puppet mayhem. If you can get passed some of the stiff acting and uneven tone you'll likely find yourself enjoying this solid addition to the long-running series.